Uncle Sam’s Hunger

From Komchadluek, February 22, 2015
On the plate cover: Petroleum concession

[This cartoon refers to bidding for petroleum concessions and Thai perceptions of U.S. motives over its calling for an immediate return to elections.

Thai perceptions about this are related to two issues.

First is the controversy over offshore petroleum bidding. The sale of Thai national assets to foreigners has been a hot-button issue for those who oppose Thaksin since the earliest protests during his premiership. These groups had hoped that the junta would halt such bidding, but initially PM Prayuth resisted these calls. However, in one of the junta’s few retreats from policy, Prayuth temporarily cancelled the bidding days before it was to commence.

The other issue relates to conspiracy theories about why the U.S. would desire quick elections. Thais (both pro and against Thaksin) see the situation in a pragmatic way–unlike Westerners who might see democracy as an ideal to be espoused on principle alone.

The quick elections that the U.S. calls for would inevitably return another Thaksin-directed government to power. These governments have continually attempted to change the nature of the Thai state to a party-dominated system similar to Malaysia where a single party dominates all parts of the government, armed forces, and the media. This is reflected in the vows to rewrite the constitution to eliminate judicial and other (supposedly) independent oversight of a sitting government.

Thus, U.S. calls for quick elections are interpreted as a desire for a return to power for Thaksin and a Malaysian-style state in Thailand. The local discussion is then why the U.S. desires this.

For instance, one prominent theory is that, because Thaksin opened up state industries to privatization and allowed foreign companies to bid on state resources concessions, the U.S. would benefit from another Thaksin-directed government coming to power as it would help U.S. business interests. Other theories center around a supposed U.S. desire for military bases.

More on these ideas: U.S. Criticism, the Junta’s Reply, and the Fate of Pheu Thai Party]

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